Loki woke with a cry, lurching up from bed, his arms flaring out to ward off creatures that existed only in his mind. But he did not know that, the fear of his dreams clung to him and in the darkness of the room his eyes could only focus on what he could not see. He couldn't see the window, or Thor who should have been nearby. There was no light, nothing. He was completely alone.
Loki, who was only four years old, whimpered.
Even now as the dream faded from his mind and he forgot why exactly he was scared in the first place, Loki shivered as his eyes darted around the dark room. Tears leaked from his eyes as he pressed his hands against his mouth to muffle the sounds of his distress. There were monsters in the darkness Thor had told him. Ones that would eat his toes the moment his feet fell over the side of the bed. Thor told him a lot of stories like that.
Suddenly, there was a light amongst the darkness. Not the warm flickering of a candle, but the pale glow of a witchlight. Light that was only seen by those meant to see it. A face became visible in the dark, and Loki raised his arms up desperately towards the figure.
The servant girl, whose name Loki did not know, put aside the witchlight and pulled Loki into her arms. Loki snuggled gratefully against her as cool fingers wiped the remaining tears from his face before beginning to stroke his hair. She rocked him slowly as a song that was now familiar lulled him into a state of near sleep. Now calm and only half aware of what was going on, Loki allowed himself to be tucked back into his sheets. Still singing her song, the servant girl continued to pet him, stroking fingers over his brow and cheeks and brushing through his hair.
He didn't remember when exactly he fell asleep, only that when he woke his dreams had been peaceful at last.
Eventually Loki would learn that her name was Fara, and she was a servant that worked in the palace kitchens. He never questioned why a cook would have been sneaking into the young prince's bedroom at night, as she had always been there for as long as Loki could remember. His and Thor's nursemaids did not like to fuss, and held him away when he tried to cuddle closer. "Look at your brother Loki, he does not escape from his bed at all hours of the night. Don't you want to be more like Thor?"
But once the lights were out and Loki was left alone and frightened in bed, Fara would come with her witchlight and hold him safely in her arms while telling him stories until he could sleep.
Thor never saw her, and told Loki that he shouldn't tell lies when Loki spoke of his nighttime visitor, and Loki learned never to tell anyone else about Fara after the nursemaids overheard him talking to Thor. They had been alarmed at the news, and for weeks they would take turns and stay in the nursery at night watching for any intruders.
Loki had been upset, afraid that he had gotten Fara in trouble, and that she would not visit anymore. But his fears were for nothing, as even the presence of candles and guards did not stop her visits. Loki would lie in bed, unable to sleep and with a nursemaid sitting in the corner with a book in her lap reading to herself. Then the door would creak open and the soft light of the witchlight would be seen. The nursemaid never reacted, never noticed the sound of the door or saw the light. She just kept on reading as Fara sat down on the edge of Loki's bed with a mischievous smile. The first time she did this, she had placed a finger to her lips, urging him to be quiet. Loki never spoke then, instead he shifted closer so that his head rested on her legs and she would stroke his hair until sleep pulled him under.
After that, Loki realized he was the only one to see Fara at night, the only one who could see the witchlight. When he asked her about it, she said that it was magic. He tired to touch the witchlight only once. As his hand got closer to the pale glow, he frowned as the skin of his fingers started to look blue. Fara took his hand gently then, and pulled it away telling him that he could not touch the light without getting hurt.
Even though Loki never saw Fara during the day, he knew she was always watching for him. He would find treats, sweet cakes and other baked goods hidden in his room when he'd had a bad day. On his birthday every year Loki would find a trinket of some sort left for him and he knew Fara had hidden it.
Loki found Fara for the first time during the daylight hours when he was seven and he and Thor had snuck into the kitchens hoping to flitch some treats. Fara didn't seem to know him though, and stood silently while the head cook scolded them. For one terrible moment Loki thought that he had made it up, and that the Fara he knew was the fabrication of a scared little boy.
But then Fara met his eyes for a just one second and winked.
Loki fought not to grin, as that would give her away and instead he continued to look cowed as the cook lectured. When they were finally led out, Loki astounded Thor by producing a handful of sweets that Fara had slipped into his pocket when he passed.
From then on Fara would sometimes visit him during the day, or else Loki would go looking for her when she was alone. Sitting in one of the many pantries, Fara would peel apples for pies while Loki told her about his schooling and the things he had learned. Sometimes he would try and do the same thing with his Father and Mother, but they were very busy, and Loki was often left with the feeling that they had only been half listening while he spoke. Fara was different; she listened and would praise him for being so clever. Loki particularly liked that, as normally his teachers seemed a little upset at how fast he was learning. Loki was already learning things that Thor was, and could probably surpass his brother despite their four-year difference. When he told Fara this, she hugged him and told him that he must be very clever indeed to learn so much so fast. Sometimes she would even bring books on history and literature so that he could read while she worked.
"Knowledge is a more powerful weapon than any forged of steel Loki," she would tell him, encouraging him when no one else would.
Being a prince did not mean that Loki was exempt from teasing from his age mates. In fact, he found himself the target of bullies on multiple occasions. Lots of times Thor would rush to his defense, beating up those that would dare offend his little brother. Thor would get in trouble for it of course, but he told Loki he didn't mind. But eventually even that changed, and Thor started suggesting that Loki start fighting back rather than make Thor take care of him all the time. Loki tried, he did… but he was quite small for his age and often found himself with bruises hidden under his clothes.
Fara would find him in his rooms, trying to hide his tears so that no one would see how weak he was. Gently, she would ease him from his hiding spot and hold him while he tried to hold back his tears.
"Thor never cries!" Loki would wail into her shoulder as tears ran down his face no matter how hard he tried to stop them.
"What are you talking about, of course Thor cries," Fara argued, running a soothing hand up and down his back.
"No he doesn't!" Loki protested.
"Oh yes he does, he's got a special cupboard that he hides in."
That stopped Loki's cries, if only so that he could blink owlishly at her. "Really?"
Fara only smiled, wiped away his tears and kissed his forehead. After that she would help heal his wounds. Fara was very talented with magic he learned.
Throughout Loki's childhood, he often fell ill. Many blamed it on his small size, other said it was because he was more inclined to sit and read rather than go out in the sun and play with the other boys. Whatever the reason though, Loki was something of a sickly child and was often confined to his bed as a fever ravaged his body. The healers would give him potions and droughts, trying to cure what ailed him. He hated it. Nothing ever seemed to work. The only good thing about his illnesses was that his mother and father would come visit him more. Sometimes he would wake to find Frigga sitting at his bedside, holding one of his hands in hers lightly. Sometimes Odin would be there as well, and would tell Loki that he would be well soon. The illness was almost worth it for the chance to have his parents focus on only him, if only for a little while.
Fara always came too, her witchlight in tow and a spell upon her so that no one else saw she was there. She would stroke his face, her cool fingers feeling heavenly on his flushed skin. Then she would feed him something cold that eased the soreness in his throat and banished his fever better than any healing potion. Then she would keep him company while he recovered, telling him stories of far off places and adventure.
As he got older, the illness's came less and less, but Fara was never far away. As Loki and Thor grew up and began to grow apart, Loki often found himself confiding in the cook. He had no friends he could vent his frustrations on, as his friends were Thor's friends and they were by far much more loyal to Thor than him.
When Loki took an interest in magic and people scoffed at his choice in studies, Fara took a different approach and showed him where all the best books were in the library. When Loki's tutors ran out of things to teach him, Fara would show him some of her magic. She taught him how to walk within the shadows and how to cast illusions. When he asked her where she learned magic, she told him of how she used to travel all of the realms, learning all different kinds of magic.
"Why do you stay here?" Loki asked, curious.
Fara looked sad then, "I was married once, but I lost my husband to war."
"Was it the war with Jotunheim?" Loki asked, as it was the war most known by he and his brother.
"Yes." Fara nodded, "One day I may travel again, but not for now. Now I am happy where I am."
Loki nodded, though he didn't really understand. He couldn't wait to leave Asgard for the first time and see the other realms. But instead he asked her how she traveled, and she began to explain the theory of how one can travel the world tree without the bifrost.
At their coming of age celebration each prince was to be given a gift from their father the king. A token to show that they were now considered men. When Thor's day came, Odin gifted him with the mighty hammer Mjolnir and was given the name God of Thunder.
Four years later, Loki eagerly awaited his ceremony and tried to guess what his father would give him. So when Loki was given a book, it was difficult not to let his mortification show. Weapons were traditional gifts, and Loki had expected a sword or a staff, anything but a book. He sat though the celebration numbly, and as soon as he was able, he excused himself to his rooms. The book was tossed in a corner and Loki barely held himself back from simply setting it aflame out of spite. True it was a magic book, and Odin likely thought it was a sign of encouragement towards Loki's chosen field of study. But magic was almost universally a woman's art, and by giving him this book Odin had all but declared to the court that it was all he was good at.
His face flushed with shame, he cast his eyes about for something to take his mind off of the catastrophic evening when they landed upon a leather bundle peeking out from under his pillow.
It took him a moment to remember that it was his birthday, and he had yet to find Fara's traditional hidden gift. Pulling the bundle out, he placed it on a nearby table and unfolded it, gasping when he saw what it contained.
Knives, a set of ten, gleamed from the belt they were holstered in, a belt that would fit perfectly under most of his clothes and certainly his armor. He pulled one of the knives from his sheath, and examined its custom design. They were curved and sharp at both ends with a decorative piece in the middle where his hand would go. Testing the balance on his finger, he found it to be perfect. The weight was ideal, and when he threw it at a small target on the wall, he hit it dead on. He was surprised when the blade disappeared suddenly, and he glanced down at the belt to see that the knife had re-appeared in its sheath.
It was the perfect gift; a long ranged weapon suited his style of fighting. And he would never run out as his blades returned to him automatically.
He brought them the next time Thor dragged him along on one of his adventures, and when Fandral commented on his weapons, Loki lied and told them that he'd commissioned them made. When he returned, he brought gifts for Fara, books of magic from far off lands.